The exterior of the house looked a little different from how he remembered it. The walls were concealed with vines and other creepers, making the whole structure look like it was naturally a part of the landscape. The wooden arched door had been polished to a sheen, “Pure Heart, Pure Mind, Pure Spirit” etched in Merleinan script:
It was his mother’s old home, which he had adamantly refused to live in.
In the past, Sola had tried to coax him to take an interest in it. His foster father eventually stopped when he came of age. The high priestess, however, was made of different mettle. She would drop subtle hints here and there whenever she had the opportunity. But the latest and most obvious of her suggestions had left him running toward it and the person he had been avoiding.
The windows were no longer shuttered with wooden panels. It had been pushed to the side, revealing curtains that billowed at the occasional breeze.
He stepped through the threshold. Instantly, his extended senses were overwhelmed. A heady mix of lavender and rosemary assaulted his nostrils. His ears picked up a high pitched ringing and his eyes were almost blinded by the brightness of the aura emanating within. He turned down most of his extended senses to a minimum and focused on his physical sight to search for Karina.
Strings of multicolored beads hung in lieu of doors in each room. He entered one after another. The place had been recently cleaned and aired. The linen room attested to that; the cabinets almost empty save for the crisp white sheets carefully stacked in a wicker basket. The enticing smell of food wafted from the next room – the kitchen. Freshly baked bread, fruits, cups, a knife and a jug of water were laid out on the table. Kala or one of the novices must have left it for Karina’s noonday meal.
The rest of the house was still and quiet, it was impossible to believe that someone was inside it. The tell-tale signs of presence were the food and the aura that had overpowered him when he arrived.
A tube-like passage led to the annex. Glass shards adorning the walls illuminated the area. At the end of the hall, was another curtain of beads. This one, however, had ancient symbols engraved around it. He slipped his hand through the entryway and peeked in. It was his family’s archives. Sara had mentioned its contents offhandedly. Valuable information was stored here, including the origins of his forefathers leading to his parents’ history.
The chamber was egg-shaped, designed to preserve the items it held through the test of time. Glass cabinets lined its walls, holding various odds and ends, some of which were mere tokens and most considered valuable. Several shelves had the common clay and crystal tablets and the rare ancient scrolls of varying sizes and material. The most priceless of all were the vials. Each contained sharp unpolished crystals. These were the memories of his ancestors. The last vial looked vaguely familiar. He remembered from his childhood, a necklace his mother always wore with a stone setting just like it. Surely, it was hers. Arturion had not known that she had been able to add her memoirs among the others.
It called to him, urging him to touch it and look into his mother’s memories. He had long ago resigned himself with the knowledge that his curiosity about his parents would never be satisfied. But, all this time, it was kept here, just waiting for him or another descendant to enter and discover its secrets. A pang of regret filled him for being so stubborn in his refusal to claim his inheritance. He was also torn between hope and apprehension as to what it might contain.
His hand trembled as he lifted the vial off its case. He shuffled across the room and dropped onto the cushion by the low table, examining the stone suspended within its container. It was only then that he noticed the pair of brown eyes studying him.
Arturion dropped his hand onto his lap, clutching his mother’s memoirs tightly; willing it to be real for he felt the whole thing too good to be true. Finding his voice, he asked: “How long have you been here?”
It was the wrong thing to ask and could not be taken back. He had forgotten his initial objective when he entered the archives. Internally, he was still struggling to organize his thoughts.
“Long enough,” Karina retorted but not unkindly. She scowled as her eyes roved all over his face. “I had wondered if something had happened to you. When you didn’t show up after a week, I thought you forgot about me. Later on, I was beginning to think you were just a dream turned into a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from.” Briskly, she organized the papers she had managed to acquire into neat piles.
She stood abruptly and strode out, the beads rattling at her wake. A few minutes had passed before she called out: “Are you coming or not?”
In the kitchen, they shared the food between them. Arturion had not eaten properly in days and thoroughly enjoyed working his way through his portion. On his left, Karina ate hers with less enthusiasm as if the simple activity tired her. Her eyes wandered everywhere but him.
He recalled his previous assessment of her a month ago. She was thin, then. Now, her collarbone jutted out sharply beneath her dress. The conversation he had with Sara earlier returned to him.
Karina had been asking for him during her second week in Merleina. The high priestess and Kala tried to address it without betraying Arturion’s confidence. They distracted their guest as much as they could by teaching her the customs and traditions of their land. But Karina had seen through it. One day, she disappeared into the forest.
A messenger of the Devatas, also known as the Forest Folk, greeted Kala when she came in the morning. He was sent by one of the lesser princes of the Court. The message had been short, stating that they would return Karina to them by day’s end.
Kala had been frantic the whole day that she burst into tears when a dazed Karina returned, whole and unharmed. When asked about what had happened to her, she would only answer that there were music and dancing at the Court.
“You are angry with me,” Arturion began.
“Maybe. I don’t know what I should feel about you anymore.”
“I am sorry.”
“It would be nice if you could tell me what you’ve been up to.” She was offering him an opening.
He was at a loss where to begin and admitted it to her apologetically. Karina gave him a measuring glance.
“Let’s play a game. You’ll answer my question and I’ll answer yours. Deal?”
“What is a Gate Keeper?”
“A Gate Keeper assists people in transition or what is more commonly called ascension. It does not apply to just anyone. We help those who have found it difficult to remain in the third dimension – your world – or those who are ready to make the leap towards the higher fourth dimension and beyond. Merleina is situated between the lower and higher fourth-dimensional plane.” Abruptly, he changed the topic. “How are you feeling?”
“Fine. My turn,” Karina said quickly.
“That’s not a real answer.”
“The truth, Kristina.”
“It’s Karina. I said I’m fine. I’ll tell you if it changes to better or worse,” she said irritably. “I’ll give you another chance. Ask me a real question.”
“Why did you seek out the Devatas?”
“The music.” Her expression softened. “I always hear them at night. But that evening, it seemed close. I wanted to see it. I didn’t leave my doorstep. Not really at first. I didn’t want Kala and Sara to worry. I just wished for the music and the dancing. I knew there was a dance because Kala had told me. Someone came and invited me to join them in the celebration. I told him that Sara had forbidden me to leave without Kala. He said they were all waiting for me. He promised that he’ll send word to Kala that I’d be back and that I would have fun. So, I came.” She smiled at the recollection. “Anyway, Sara lifted the ban. I can come and go as I want in Merleina and by the edges of the Forest as long as it’s during the day.”
“The Forest Folk are wary of humans. Still, they’ve accepted you as their own. Who invited you?”
Arturion blinked at the mention of the prince’s name. Prince Kelor has been a favorite of the Devata for centuries. A lesser prince but favored by the High King and Queen of the Devatas. He had never involved himself in human affairs before. To have his friendship would mean having the Devatas as powerful allies.
“You realize it could have been a trick, someone posing as Kelor-dan.”
“Yes. Either way, I would have gone.”
“Just for the entertainment?” he asked incredulously.
“For everything.” Karina sighed. “I’m sick of hiding just because I’m the foreigner here. And I wanted a breather – away from…”
At last, the truth was revealed. It was understandable. He knew firsthand how Sara paid attention to the people she cared for. The high priestess did not fuss. Her ability to perceive every action you have made or will have done could keep anyone on their toes. Sara’s impeccable comportment made temple worshipers self-conscious of their behavior when faced before her. Simply, no one wanted to be on the receiving end of the high priestess’ displeasure.
“Enough about me. What did you tell Aly and the others?” Karina asked.
Wattpad code: 58366003
©MC Babasa 2014
A/N: Feel free to post your feedback as this is the first book. Your comments and suggestions may influence the story as it progresses up to the second book.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.